I came to minimalism late in life having been brought up in a house full of collectors. We didn’t quite qualify for an episode of ‘hoarders’ but we did a good job of holding onto our possessions and continually adding to them. Sad to say this problem has remained unchecked and currently hides in a multitude of cupboard which are bursting at the seams, two garden sheds and a garage full of cast- offs. The monster piles of clutter and books may have been locked away, but it just keeps on growing.
When I moved away from my parents and got my own flat, it was therefore no great to surprise to find I had inherited the clutter gene. Not only that but I had also inherited a mound of clutter from other people. Elderly relatives may have passed on, but their possessions remained and had somehow found their way into my flat thanks to my parents sending a large shipment labelled ‘your things’ that arrived two weeks after I did. The problem is, half the items didn’t belong to me in the first place. These included my grandmother’s cut glass fruit bowls and storage jars; vases from my Great Uncle; two carriage clocks; furniture and bookcases from my Aunt and even gifts from their well-meaning friends who had discovered ‘just the perfect item’ to help me set up house.
I hung onto these items for years, few of which I really wanted or needed, or in some cases even liked. Yet I did nothing, sat there complaining as they gathered dust and took up valuable space in my ever shrinking flat. It was only when I started reading about minimalism that I found the inspiration and will to get rid of them and this was a long process with lots of false starts and resistance.
It has taken about two years to finally start de-cluttering effectively. Before then, I would have a tidy up and take some items to the charity shop, but the clutter persisted and I found myself just getting rid of the easy bits like old clothes. The same hand-me-down clutter would remain, because I could never quite bring myself to part with it. It seemed disloyal to my relatives. Their items acted as a permanent reminder of them and secretly I think I worried that if I got rid of items, I would be letting go of my family too.
For me this has been the biggest challenge of becoming minimalist. It has become easier now I have experienced the process over several months. First comes the elation of discarding and then comes the emotional kickback and fallout from passing on my stuff. What if I need it? What if I miss it? What if? Now I can embrace the challenge and to talk myself round to the fact I don’t need these unnecessary things. I enjoy the new space I have created and the feeling that weight of carrying around superfluous stuff has finally been lifted. I find new ways to remember my relatives and honour their memory by telling stories to my family about what they were like, what they enjoyed and why they were special. I’m sure this is the kind of legacy they would want, rather than to be remembered as an ‘owner of outdated things’.